Boost your prospection using the 5 secrets of serial winners in tennis!

Antoni Girod

Published : 23 November 2016
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Prospection is a strenuous art that requires nerves made of solid steel. The motivation of even the bravest of salespersons can come to be seriously undermined by a series of unavailing calls, impenetrable secretary barriers, or polite dodges such as: “You can send us an e-mail…” After several fruitless calling sessions, the initial momentum can quickly get caught up by frustration, discouragement and doubt. How do we keep the flame alive and push forward when all the indicators are flashing red? What if instead of blaming it on the poor quality of the prospect file, the tough conjuncture or our sheer bad luck, we went and looked at what sport – tennis, in the present case – has to tell us, so that we could draw inspiration from the secrets of serial winners and get back into a positive cycle of accomplishments?

The 2016 tennis season is closing with Andy Murray’s triumph against Djokovic at the London ATP World Tour Finals. This victory allows him to confirm his newly acquired status as the world n° 1.  Having collected no less than 9 titles this year including Wimbledon (for the second time), an Olympic gold in Rio (added to his London 2012 success), and for the first time, the Masters Finals, the Scot makes a grand entrance into the very select club of the serial winners. How was he able to pull off this feat when early in 2012, after losing three Grand Slam finals, he was the player who spurred the most serious doubts as to his capacity to ever win a major?

Voici 3 pistes de transpositions

FIRST SECRET : Keep winning in mind!


The key to overcoming this blockage in big events was found by Murray just before the 2012 Australian Open when he hired former world n°1 Ivan Lendl as his coach. Aware of the work to be done, the Scot confessed: “I’m not going to reap the benefits of my collaboration with Ivan starting this week. The progress will show in six or twelve months, when all the things we are working on are properly in place.” The prophecy eventually came true when he claimed his first Grand Slam victory at the US Open in September 2012!

That year, with a former multiple Grand Slam winner in his box, Andy Murray really started to believe more and more in his chances and to step in the shoes of the winner. The first secret of serial winners consists in keeping your mind set on victory, whatever the results, and convincing yourself that sooner or later, your faith will be repaid. With this state of mind, no need to get worked up about chasing results, for they will follow naturally.

To carry this idea over to prospection, you can for instance put up a sheet on a wall in your office with your target goals, e.g. number of appointments made, number of new deals signed and resulting turnover. To reinforce your conviction that you can achieve your goals, while you may not be able to recruit Ivan Lendl, you can coach yourself by visualizing your appointments, your prospects signing a new contract with you, and the resulting turnover. Don’t let the obstacles and unavoidable failures inherent to both sport and business challenge your initial resolve.

Against all odds, keep on picturing yourself in the shoes of the winner that you shall become sooner or later!


SECOND SECRET : Do something better every day!


The second secret common to all serial winners is to constantly seek progress. This is what Murray did as early as 2007 to improve his then somewhat feeble athleticism, by hiring the services of Michael Johnson, the past holder of 200m and 400m world records, and Mark Grabow, the former physical trainer of the Golden State Warriors. This is what he continues to do today. By using the Gyrotonic fitness machine, he added quality to quantity in his physical training: “I used to train extremely hard. I don’t think I looked after my body as well as I should have done. Now that I have been looking after it, doing way more different types of stretching, sort of injury prevention work, my back is no issue whatsoever. Whereas for two years I was in a lot of pain because I was training hard but not doing the right stuff to get it better.”


Andy Murray is not the only one displaying this obsession for constant progress. His arch-rival Novak Djokovic not only drastically modified his diet habits but also incorporated the daily practice of mediation to improve his concentration and emotional control. Still, the palm goes to another prolific winner named Stanislas Wawrinka, the champion of this year’s US Open. In 2013, he was seen at the Monte-Carlo tournament sporting a new tattoo on the inside of his left forearm. A quote from Samuel Beckett that reads: « Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better. » The Swiss commented: “This is my second tattoo… I’ve wanted to get it for a long time. This is a quote that I love and a great nod to my job and my desire to keep on trying in spite of the defeats.” This is what we might call having the desire to win under one’s skin!


To adapt this in the context of prospection, while you may not decide to get a tattoo, you can enumerate all the things you could improve in each and every area. For instance, perfecting the hook of your telephone pitch by tailoring it to better fit the profile of the prospects you call; using LinkedIn to identify targets you wouldn’t have thought of before; or updating your contact list by adding or modifying e-mail addresses and phone numbers. You can also create a warm-up ritual in order to get in proper condition before your calling sessions, or rework and personalize the e-mail you send to your prospects after calling or meeting them. Or you could make more use of recommendation by calling upon the positive opinions of your satisfied clients. And the list goes on. It’s up to you to complement it with all the ideas for improvement that come to your mind…


THIRD SECRET : Enjoy what you do!


In a recent interview given to the ATP from his home in Switzerland, Roger Federer, the man with the 17 Grand Slams titles, looked back over what tennis brings him: “Playing tennis makes me happy. I haven’t played in 9 days and when I got back to it, I was happy, even playing only 20-30 minutes. I primarily play for the pleasure of it. A day will come when I will retire but even so, I think I will keep on playing with my family and friends. I won’t be able to stop playing, even after retiring. I feel motivated to carry on. I can only hope that my knee gets better so that I can come back on the tour in 2017.”

The third secret of serial winners lies in the fact that, no matter what happens, they manage to preserve the pleasure they feel practicing their sport. This love for the game allows them to go through all the trials and tribulations without ever throwing in the towel, whether they be dealing with injuries, bad performances or times of apparent stagnation. This also transpires through their capacity to handle things with humour.

To carry this over to prospection, why not turn your calling sessions into a game?! Have fun playing around with your approach and finding innovative tactics.  Try out new hooks. Between each phone call, listen to a catchy song or watch a funny video clip. Practice self-derision. Laugh about your failures! And keep on calling with a smile on your face!!!


FOURTH SECRET : Give meaning to what you do!


Striking a ball for hours on end while running across the four corners of a tennis court can appear devoid of meaning after a while. In an interview for the Sunday Times, Andy Murray said: I’m interested in learning about how the brain works. You have to be open and honest about the thoughts and the feelings that you have. It’s more about understanding myself better.” For the Scottish champ, on a more personal level, elite tennis is also way to develop a deeper self-knowledge. He also uses his notoriety to endorse causes that matter to him. In this spirit, he participated in the “Rally for cancer”, an exhibition raising money for the Royal Marsden Cancer Charity.

He is also a Global Ambassador for UNICEF, United for Wildlife, Malaria No More and World Wildlife Foundation. This commitment towards charity actions puts the sole pursuit of results in the background and gives an even more inspiring purpose to his practice of tennis. In addition to the pleasure that he gives to his fans, he is aware that he contributes to causes stretching beyond the realm of sport. The 4th secret may be the one that gives the more depth to the motivation of serial winners. It rests on the search for self-knowledge and the feeling of helpfulness to others.

On certain days, if your prospecting sessions start to seem absurd, think of how prospecting and selling can benefit others. Think of all the people working in the other departments of your company. Without you (and the other salespersons of your team), they would have no jobs! Remember that the end-goal of a factory, for instance, is to sell the products that it creates. If it wasn’t for someone to sell and prospect, the factory would shut down. Also, think about your family and close relatives. You are prospecting for them too, so that you can support their needs. Think about your future clients and all the things you are going to provide them with and all the benefits they will get out of your services and/or the purchase of your products. Anticipate their future satisfaction. Picture them thanking you for having contacted them. Finally, think about your client’s clients… By taking a step back and looking at the bigger picture, you will become aware of the scope of your calling sessions. You will no longer look at them with the same eye! And don’t forget that prospection can be a humbling way to develop self-knowledge by overcoming the fear of being turned down. This means learning to accept all the “Nos” and rejections through the cultivation of an unconditional sense of self-esteem.




At 35, where does Serena Williams still draw her phenomenal motivation from? To this question, the most titled female player of all time – with 38 Grand Slams won in singles and doubles – offers the following answer: “I love playing tennis and I love winning. What keeps me motivated is that I’m doing well and I am winning.  When it’s going this way, I just want to maintain the momentum, keep on progressing and winning. When I lose though, my motivation comes from a totally different place: I want to find out why I have lost, what I can improve, and if I can do it. In the past, I would win one, two, three or four majors, whereas now, a Grand Slam Trophy means a lot more to me. It has more meaning in the history of the game.”  In a few sentences, the American champion combines the first 4 secrets. The 1st is Pleasure: I love playing tennis”. The 2nd is Victory: “What keeps me motivated is that I am winning.” The third is Progress: “I want to keep on progressing … I want to find what I can improve”. And the 4th is Meaning: “This has more meaning in the history of the game.”

The 5th secret shared by serial winners of the calibre of Serena Williams is this exceptional ability to consistently combine the 4 boosters over a long period of time.

There you are! These secrets no longer hold any secrets from you. The ball is in your court now!….

Good prospecting and business to all!

Antoni Girod


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